Friday, August 29, 2014
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CNN revisits 'The Sixties,' in 10 parts

Ed Sullivan with the Beatles before the band´s first appearance on his TV show. (from Inquirer Archives)
Ed Sullivan with the Beatles before the band's first appearance on his TV show. (from Inquirer Archives)
Ed Sullivan with the Beatles before the band´s first appearance on his TV show. (from Inquirer Archives) Gallery: CNN revisits 'The Sixties,' in 10 parts

For baby boomers, the '60s will always be the ultimate sweet spot, that prelapsarian decade when everything seemed possible.

So The Sixties, a profuse 10-part docu-series (airing Thursdays at 9 p.m.) is a savvy programming ploy for CNN, a DVR-worthy trove that somehow sheds fresh light on an era that has been all but strip-mined for its memories.

Each chapter in the package, executive-produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Mark Herzog, has a thematic focus, from Vietnam to the civil rights movement to the counterculture.

The series begins winsomely with "Television Comes of Age," a flashy, melts-in-your-mouth celebration of the tube and its growing influence.

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  • You get everything from the Kennedy-Nixon debate to Leave It to Beaver in this kaleideoscopic survey, along with the commentary of talking heads such as newsman Robert MacNeil, critic David Bianculli, and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.

    There's a lot of ground to cover, which makes the inordinate amount of time devoted to Dick Cavett and the Smothers Brothers curiously annoying.

    The nostalgia and fun factors are highest in the pop-culture episodes like this one and "The British Invasion" (July 10), which as you might imagine is an extended evocation of Beatlemania. This musical hour also revisits the epochal 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show and Bob Dylan's controversial performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

    The quality of The Sixties improves markedly in the segments with more tightly focused and newsier agendas, for instance those devoted to the Cuban missile crisis and the exploration of space.

    The greatest achievement of this series is the two-hour "The Assassination of President Kennedy" (June 12), a truly remarkable assemblage of archival, home video, and news footage. The impact is so immediate and immersive, you feel as if you're moving through that tragic weekend again in real time.

    The Sixties is better than it needs to be. A rehash of familiar scenes from this antic era would probably have sat well with CNN viewers. This is a comfort-food smorgasbord for the Woodstock generation, a harking back to that vision of ourselves as a nation with shared ideals and values.

    Before the splintering began.

     


    TV REVIEW

    The Sixties

    9 p.m. Thursday on CNN


    dhiltbrand@phillynews.com

    215-854-4552 @daveondemand_tv

     

    David Hiltbrand Inquirer TV Critic
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